Sifry: OUCH!

Over on his blog, Micah Sifry, a former Nation editor who thinks a lot about technology in politics and who worked on Andrew Rasiej’s campaign for public advocate, has a long post-mortem of that campaign.

It’s worth reading through, though a some of it seemed fairly obvious from the launch of Andrew’s campaign. The question is only partly “What went wrong?”; as interesting is “How could they have thought it would work?” and Sifry, to his credit, asks both.

Anyway, he has a lot of sharp observations, and open disappointments. Sifry regrets that — as it was looking hopeless — Rasiej didn’t take his advice to turn the campaign “open-source,” letting supporters and small donors in on the decision-making process.

Instead, “We were to be a top-down campaign using some nifty online tools that made fundraising easier and communications cheaper.”

He also has some complaints about other players, notably the Working Families Party and Acorn, whose tendency toward ends over means and principles apparently came as a surprise, as did the fact that nobody cares about the Public Advocate’s office.

But Sifry’s best on the stuff he knows well: technology and politcs. One central conclusion is that the “tech community” is something like a fiction.

“One of the unconventional premises of our campaign was the idea that young, ‘wired’ individuals who work and play in the new technology economy would rally to support one of their own…. Indeed, we started with lots of support and good will from key Internet organizers from the Dean, Clark, Kerry and Kucinich 2004 presidential campaigns along with “A-list” technology opinion-shapers…

“But the fabled tech community turned out to be mostly a fable when it came to actually embracing Andrew’s campaign and setting aside time to spread its message…”

I’m beginning to think, in general, that all this talk about Web-based politics is really premature. It’s a bubble that has to burst, as it did with Rasiej, and be remade into something real, just as the Internet economy was after its bubble burst.